Catch of the day: Chris Kunkel of Shanty on the Shore

Chris Kunkel has been a vital employee of Shanty on the Shore for over a decade.

Chris Kunkel has been a vital employee of Shanty on the Shore for over a decade.

By Lesley Snyder

Shanty on the Shore is hardly a shanty – with its gleaming 200-year-old beams and elaborate interior rigged to resemble the restaurant’s maritime neighbors. The humbly-named establishment has been docked along the shore of Lake Champlain since the mid-1980s; and thanks to employee Chris Kunkel’s 11-year dedication to the restaurant – and a band of committed co-workers – it’s more than just staying afloat. The dining room thrives on his expertly-prepared Shrimp Scampi and signature Seafood Platter. Co-owner Kim Gobeille is the first to sing his praises. “Chris is key in the success of the business,” she commends.

Kunkel boarded the Shanty in 2002, and after working most positions, he now mans the kitchen with other long-running staff members. Some employees have remained for eight years, others nearly two decades. As anyone who’s worked in a restaurant knows, having an anchored crew is imperative. “It’s like family here,” Kunkel beams.

Even those who worked on Shanty’s shores in the 19th century aren’t interested in parting ways. But does Kunkel believe in the ghosts of Shanty’s past? Definitely, he admits; it’s haunted. “Just yesterday, I heard knocking when no one was there,” he recounts. While the presence of posthumous Issac Nye – owner of a general store on Shanty property in 1833 – is a source of amiable debate amongst the staff, Kunkel has bigger fish to fry. Throughout the year, Shanty hosts several seafood festivals, and Kunkel is responsible for conceiving each event’s menu. Whether it’s September’s “Lobster Maine-ia,” the upcoming “Shrimp Fest,” or their annual “Crab Fest” in May, Kunkel creates each soup, scampi, and Shanty special especially for celebrators.

As the Shanty treats patrons to Burlington’s only raw bar, Kunkel keeps a close eye on the quality and freshness of its seafood and orders six days a week. It’s no secret that seafood is highly perishable, and Kim and her husband, Al Gobeille, put their trust in Kunkel’s capable hands.

When he isn’t sautéing, Kunkel gets his sea legs out on the hiking trail. While he likes to bustle about in kitchen, Kunkel doesn’t hesitate to spend his off-hours relaxing.

There are no other fish in the sea for this cook. Having over a decade under his belt, Kunkel thoroughly enjoys working at the Shanty. “It has a great atmosphere, great staff, and a high-energy menu,” Kunkel explains. Even during the more infamous experiences – like on Shanty’s busiest day, July 3, when the kitchen was handicapped by two finicky ovens – Kunkel is still happy to steer the ship. “The best part about working in a kitchen,” he shares, “is that it’s never the same thing every day.”

Ride the waves to Shanty on the Shore at 181 Battery Street in Burlington. If you’d like to get your feet wet before diving in, peruse the Shanty’s menu at www.shantyontheshore.com. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 11 am-9 pm. Come on in; the water’s fine.

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